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Sheena Robbin Harris

Sheena Robin Harris did an amazing job with her A Contract of Words story “Technical Jargon”. It is  a humorous tale about what could happen if you don’t read the “technical jargon” in a contract. The main character, John, hires a plumber to fix a leaky sink, but as soon as he leaves the room, the plumber helps himself to what’s in the fridge and starts blaring Christmas music, even though it’s July. 

We’ve all had a guest who has made themselves a little too comfortable, but I’ve never paid a professional who felt the urge to make themselves a sandwich. 

Harris does an incredible job at bringing her characters to life. Each of these men sound like people I know and I could picture them clearly as I read. Her writing is outstanding and I was engaged throughout. 

The little twist in the contract made me laugh out loud. It wasn’t what I expected and I was glad I read it. 

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What is your story about?

When not-so-handy Jonathan Cross calls a plumber because his wife won’t let him fix the kitchen sink on his own, the plumber who shows up seems a little too cliche, a little too comfortable in the house, and a little too festive for July. Signing the dotted line without close examination of the contract proves to be a huge mistake, but Jonathan realizes his folly much too late—even though the ink has barely had time to dry.

Are your characters based off anyone you know?

As much as I’d like to say yes, they’re actually not. As with any story penned by an author, the details and some character attributes sprung from certain life experiences, maybe even from experiences with specific people, but none of the characters are based solely on any certain person.

What inspired you to write this story?

I spent some time mulling over common types of contracts, those that most people could identify with, and the idea for a service contract with some type of contractor came to mind. From there, it was: What would happen if a homeowner signed a service contract without reading the fine print? What could be in that fine print they should’ve read?

Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous?

I did plan to submit at least one story but thought after I submitted the first, I thought I was probably not going to do the second one. However, I had an idea hit me the day before the submission deadline, and I knew I had to get it in. So “Technical Jargon” was actually mainly written and edited within the few hours leading up to the submission deadline. I believe I managed to get it in with about ten minutes to spare.

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What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words?

Shock! Seriously—utter disbelief. I know there are so many talented writers who submit their stories in hopes of getting into the Of Words series and doubted mine could measure up to theirs. When I learned my first story had been accepted, you couldn’t smack the smile off of my face. Later when “Technical Jargon” was also accepted by a fluke (only one story per author is allowed, but Brian had picked my second story without realizing what he had done—at least I believe that’s what happened), I thought I must’ve been dreaming. Of course, later on, the rest of the chosen authors voted on the two stories and “Technical Jargon” was the top-runner in that poll. I’ve written my entire life, but to be recognized for it, and twice at that, was a lifelong dream come true. It was one of those life experiences as a writer that you store away in your memory files and work toward making happen again—and want to happen as often as possible.

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it.

Having a companion song to your story is one of the coolest things about getting published in these anthologies, but unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with a song for “Technical Jargon.” I really did want a song, but finding one to fit was simply too much of a stretch.

What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit and write? How long did it take you to write this story?

I’m a total pantser. I don’t do outlines because outlines kill my creativity. I think maybe it has something to do with being a professional writer in my actual career, which is a form of writing that is so formal and so technical, there’s little room for creativity. If I outline a creative work of mine, it feels a lot like that. “Technical Jargon” was spilled out in a few short hours. There was no real prior planning and no outline.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the story title before or after you write a story?

Sometimes I pick a story title when I start writing, but it almost always changes. I guess I’m a creature of habit because, with this story, it was the same process. I can’t remember my initial title now, but somewhere around halfway through, the right title hit me like it usually does, and I changed it. Because the story revolves around overlooking all that technical jargon and fine print, the title seemed appropriately fitting.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words is your favorite and why?

This book is filled with so many awesome stories! I’ve read them all, and so many of them stick out to me as incredibly creative and impressive. Some of them are so disturbing, like Gabriella Balcom’s “Bobby – You’d Never Guess” and Ian Thomas Bishop’s “Bard’s Folly.” Some of them are downright hilarious, like Larry Herscovitch’s “The Case of the Missing Cookies.” However, if I had to pick a top favorite, my choice is, hands-down, “A Guy Walks into a Bar” By S. Lyle Lunt. This story had me laughing and crying, and it is one of those that pulls at the heartstrings in a way that is so damn surprising and unexpected.

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why?

It’s really hard to pick a favorite with such an impressive lineup. However, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers hold a special place for me, so “Two Gunslingers” would have to be my favorite. The story Brian Paone spun around that song makes for a truly incredible collaboration.

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it?

“Technical Jargon” is my first formally published piece of fiction. I hope there will be much more to come and plan to release my first novel, Lost in Reverie, by winter 2018.

How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work?

I can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SheenaRobinHarris.Author/?ref=settings.

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Gabriella Balcom

Gabriella Balcom’s A Contract of Words story “Bobby – You’d Never Guess” is exciting and horrific. The story focuses on real life issues as seen from the point of view of Bobby, a very unique boy who needs counseling, and maybe a better life.

I got chills reading this story. It’s no wonder it made it into A Contract of Words. Balcom did a beautiful job at creating this very well written character and the world around him. If you need to be creeped out just a bit, I would suggest this story.

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What is your story about?

First, let me ask––have you ever been bullied? Mistreated at home, school, work, or in another setting? Many people go through this. The world is filled with all kinds of individuals, each of whom is unique, and everyone is affected by the situations they encounter. One person growing up in a home with alcoholics may turn to drinking, whereas another might choose not to. An individual surrounded by others who are biased in certain ways may feel likewise. People obviously don’t all experience the same things growing up, and it’s to be expected they will each react differently also.

The main character in my story is Bobby, who has experienced some unpleasant situations, including bullying and the death of someone close to him. Like most of us, he has people he thoroughly despises and others he thinks are all right. He is highly intelligent, and has developed some rather unique viewpoints and hobbies that might blow you away. I won’t say more, but I invite you to read the story for yourself.

Are your characters based off of anyone you know?

For some of my stories, I draw character traits and events from people or situations I’ve known. However, some people I write about are based almost 100% on themselves, per se. Bobby is one such character. At times I can envision scenarios or lives, almost “hear” or “know” the persons I’m writing about, their dialogue, etcetera. Such was the case with Bobby. From the time I first thought of him, his personality has been strong and directed me. Therefore, even though I’ve borrowed bits of real life here and there in my story, Bobby is primarily based on Bobby.

What inspired you to write this story?

My background is in Psychology and Criminal Justice, and I work in a mental health field. I’ve dealt with families that epitomize the word “troubled,” abusive parents, abused children, substance abusers, and people in all types of crisis situations. Along the way, I’ve encountered individuals who’ve survived terrible things, others who’ve done terrible things, and some who fall in both categories.

I wanted to write this story for more than one reason. First, Bobby became very real to me from the moment I thought of him, and I wanted to tell his story. Second, the farther I delved into his life, the more intrigued and blown away I became, not only because of his choices, but because of his past and the forces propelling him along. Third, I’ve always been fascinated by people, the things they’ve experienced and endured, and how they’ve coped and moved forward. Some people have trouble coping with issues that seem tiny. Others survive and even blossom in spite of the worse issues. In Bobby’s case, a couple types I was just typing away, pursuing a direction I thought would be interesting. However, I realized that what I was writing seemed off––wrong somehow. If I let myself relax and didn’t worry about it, I felt myself being guided into other scenarios and revelations I hadn’t expected. Here, I refer back to my previous “blown away” comment. To be truthful, I couldn’t NOT write this story.

Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous?

A few months ago, I got the idea to check into Facebook groups devoted to writing, and happened upon Fiction Writing. I asked to join and was accepted. At that point, I’d never heard of the Of Words anthologies. Looking through posts, I wondered what the “ACOW” was that people kept mentioning. After I asked, I was referred to the pinned post, found out, and was intrigued. I thought I’d try my hand at a short-story or two, something I hadn’t done in awhile. I’d written some novel-length works, each of which I’d set aside upon completion, moving on to the next one, but nothing short. I wrote short stories in the past, but they were non-fiction and mental-health-related.

I’ve always had ideas popping into my head, and as soon as I considered writing for ACOW, even more began flooding my mind. I started four stories, but two really pushed me. I submitted these two for ACOW consideration. I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to write, read, revise, reread, etc., since I was a fairly new member of Fiction Writing. However, I’m very glad for the time I did have, for the opportunity to submit, and that I decided to do so.

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What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words?

When I saw the post with my name, story acceptance, and related picture, I danced around, cried, laughed, sighed, had grateful feelings toward Brian Paone for the great opportunity to be published, and a great deal more of the same.

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it.

I chosen Blondie’s “One Way or Another” to accompany my story. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say the song fits. You’ll understand when you read my story.

What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit down and write? How long did it take you to write this story?

I like to be by myself in my room. I sit on my bed with various notes or prompts nearby, and typically have music playing low (to drown out distractions). I don’t typically outline. When I get an idea or envision characters and their lives, I almost always sit down and begin writing. Sometimes I’ll know specific things I want to include or that I think will enhance the story. I’ll write them down on notepaper or index cards and put them up where I can’t miss them. When I’ve finished writing a story, I go back through and sometimes add elements. The time I began writing “Bobby – You’d Never Guess” to when I finished totaled about three weeks, I think. I couldn’t write everything at one setting, because I work full-time and sometimes do additional projects on the side. Therefore, I fit in chunks of time before and after work.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the title before or after you write a story?

It sort of chose me, I guess. Considering the subject matter of the story, I couldn’t think of a more fitting title, and I chose it about mid-way through writing the story.

I choose titles differently depending on what I’m writing. I’ve have times I couldn’t pick one until a story was done, others where I knew the title before I began writing, and a few times I’ve chosen titles but changed them.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words if your favorite and why?

I can’t answer that, because I don’t have a favorite. I love the stories and can’t choose only one. They were all really good!

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why?

Again, I can’t weed down to only one. I like many of the songs, including the one I chose to go with my story.

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it?

One of my short stories, “A New Life for Sara,” was published in Vortex, the Inner Circle Writer’s Group anthology. It came out recently, and can be purchased if you follow the links in the Inner Circle Writer’s Group Facebook site. Or, you can follow links on the Clarendon Books website, or buy copies on Lulu.com. I believe copies may be available later on Amazon.com.

A second short story I wrote, “Kevin and the Unexpected Visitor,” was accepted for publication in Windows, the Inner Circle Writer’s Group children’s anthology. It should be coming out sometime in the new few weeks, and you can follow the same links as cited for the previous story to purchase a copy.

A third short story of mine, “Shadows of the Anasazi,” was accepted for publication in Phuket Tattoo, a Zombie Pirate Publishing Writer’s Group anthology. It is due for release August 1, 2018. You can look for publication links on the Zombie Pirate Publishing Facebook site.

How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work?

I have a Facebook author page and would love for you to visit it. The address is:

https://m.facebook.com/GabriellaBalcom.lonestarauthor

Although I don’t have a website up and running yet, I hope to soon.

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Curtis A. Deeter

Next up for our A Contract of Words Blog is Curtis A. Deeter, author of “Clark the Herald Sings”, which is a tale about a man starting a new job. He is shown around by an odd clark. The office building is completely white and filled with unusual characters, who may or may not have wings, but all seem completely busy with jobs of their own.

Deeter did a good job at keeping the reader interested. It was funny at times, making me laugh at my screen. The character was realistic and interesting. The author did a great job at setting the scene and painting the image.

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What is your story about?
Without giving it away, the main character Sam arrives at a seemingly run-of-the-mill office building to finalize his new employment. It’s a job he never expected to take, but always knew was perhaps the most important job there is. As he’s shown around the place, he realizes he wasn’t quite prepared for his new position.

Are your characters based off anyone you know?
Sam is a representation of some very human qualities—sarcastic, judgmental at times, a bit stubborn—but not based off of any one individual. Walter, the clark, is based off a pencil pusher I know, but I’m not going to say any names here (he’s not, I repeat NOT, based off of every front counter worker I’ve ever encountered).

What inspired you to write this story?
I think Terry Pratchett did. And Neil Gaiman. There are some ineffable, inhuman things in this universe that need to be brought down to our level. People have been personifying evil and weather and God and whatever else for centuries. I figured why not me too?

Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous?
I had a basic idea for a story, which has turned out to be a series of stories about the same character and in the same world, but didn’t know where to start. For Sam, it starts at the beginning, which seems like a good enough place. Hearing about the “contract” theme of the anthology gave me the spark I needed to start my published writing career.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words?
Shock, mostly. I read the notification about three seconds after I woke up for work. I’m a zombie during the work week and not the kind featured in Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video. No, I’m the kind that needs a cup of coffee and for people to shut the heck up. Needless to say, it took a minute for the realization to set in. Then I thrillered my way through the day, telling everyone with ears to listen. And a few without.

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it.
When I was writing Clark the Herald Sings I accidentally stuck a song in Sam’s head while he was going through the motions of the story. I had Mr. Sandman stuck in mine at the time and the more I thought about it—its strangeness and how it sort of lingers with you after the radio stops—the more I thought it was a suiting song to accompany his brief, yet universe-rippling journey.

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What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit and write? How long did it take you to write this story?
I don’t outline shorter pieces. I get an idea and run with it, usually really fast and carrying sharp scissors. This was actually one of my fastest pieces. Finished it in one 2-3 hour sitting, let it stew until it got crunchy bits around the edges, and then dissected it. Fast is good. Fast keeps ideas fresh.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the title before or after you write a story?
People tell me sometimes I’m clever—mostly my mother and sometimes, when I’ve behaved myself, my wife. This is an example of a rare instance I thought so too. Clark is a term for a religious scholar/secretary (not a typo as my father-in-law pointed out). The title is a play on Walter’s position, who’s ultimately the main character, and the song Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. He sort of heralds Sam’s coming into his new position so to speak.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words is your favorite and why?
I enjoyed a lot of them, but I like Sheena Robin Harris’s Technical Jargon the most. I think. Yes. That one. It’s got a lot of the silly humor that I (poorly perhaps) employ in a lot of my lighter fantasy work. It’s funny without trying too hard.

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why?
When Your Mind’s Made Up, by Glen Hansard. I’d never heard it before the companion CD and there’s a lot of emotion behind his vocals. It reminds me that I’ve made up my mind and I’m doing this whole author thing. Stubborn or not, if you want something you have to go get it no matter what anybody else says.

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it?
I recently published a second short story in Anthology Askew’s science fiction edition. It’s slated to be released sometime in June. Ask me around the end of the year. I’m planning on having one or two more short stories published by then. I’ll put up my Facebook link, which will link to everything and my website—once I have a website—and I figure out this dang Internetting thing.

How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCurtisDeeter/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CurtisADeeter

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Jan Maher

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Today’s A Contract of Words author is Jan Maher and her story is “Dancing in the Dark”.

This story is about a man and woman that gets trapped in an elevator. It’s an awkward encounter as they are going through a divorce and didn’t end the relationship on good terms. They reminisce while waiting for the elevator to start back up.

I found this to be a sweet, yet sad story about what quite a few relationships go through. I felt so sad for both characters. You can tell they clearly still love each other, but it is also clear their marriage is over.

Jan did a great job at describing the love/hate relationship between the couple. I felt the tension from the two as if I were in that elevator with them.  Her writing is beautiful and the story was remarkable.

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What is your story about?
Two people about to be divorced, on their way to a session with their attorneys, get stuck in an elevator together. Then the lights go out.

Are your characters based off anyone you know?
Not directly. The issues are based in issues that (I and) many of my friends had to contend with when they divorced when their children were still young: who gets which holidays, how to provide for their future, etc.

What inspired you to write this story?
This is one of those stories that popped up out of a writing exercise. The prompt was to put two people who really didn’t want to be together in a situation where they couldn’t avoid each other. I thought an elevator was about as tight a situation as can be, and a couple on the verge of their divorce was about as really not wanting to be together as can be.

Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous?
I actually wrote the story quite a few years ago, had submitted it to a couple of places, and even re-written it at one point as a radio play (which was not accepted). It had been in a drawer for a long time when I joined Fiction Writers and shortly after saw the call for submissions to ACOW. Wow, I thought, the conditions are ripe for this story! It has a contract about to be broken, with a new one about to be entered into; it has references to music; all it lacked was tacos! So I dusted it off, re-read it, saw why it hadn’t been accepted before, fixed those spots, and sent it in.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words?
Very pleased! I love the way Brian built suspense with the acceptances and then announced them in ways that reflected each story. So when I saw the elevator button for floor 3, I definitely broke out in a very wide grin.

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it.
The title of my story is the song I chose: “Dancing in the Dark.” It’s a metaphor for the way the couple spends the elevator blackout time revisiting and dancing around their old issues, but also how, by the end of the story, they are ready to “face the music together,” which is in the final line of lyrics.

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What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit and write? How long did it take you to write this story?
I am a chaotic writer. The only things I can say for certain about my process are that I always write first drafts in hand, that I love to write in coffee houses, especially either first draft or when I’m editing (but not when I’m just typing work into my word processor), and that I write in spurts. I may go for weeks without writing much at all, and then at a certain point I may literally write from morning till night (and in my sleep, if you count dreaming about how to make something happen in the writing). As I mentioned, this story was in response to a prompt in a book, and I wrote the first draft in a couple of nights of bedtime journal writing. No outline. The story emerged from the situation and resolved from it as well. So two days for the basic draft. But about 12 years of very intermittent editing and submitting until it was finally ready for ACOW.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the title before or after you write a story?
I think the title came as I was writing the story. I was thinking of the kind of music that gets played (or got played 12 years ago) in elevators: “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” is one that seemed to capture their mood at the beginning, and as I said above, “Dancing in the Dark” seemed like a perfect metaphor for how they are functioning when the power goes out, the elevator stops, and the lights go out.
I usually choose titles early in the process, but I often tweak or completely change them once a story is done.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words is your favorite and why?
I especially love Sandy Lyle Lunt’s “A Guy Walks into a Bar” for the way she keeps us in suspense for quite a while about what is going on, and even makes room for us to suspect something quite nefarious might be in the offing, and then turns it to such a wonderful story of caring and compassion.

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why?
Mrs. Robinson. It’s always been a favorite, since I first heard Simon and Garfunkel sing it.

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it?
Thanks for asking! My novels (Earth As It Is and Heaven, Indiana) and other books (Most Dangerous Women: Bringing History to Life through Readers’ Theater and History in the Present Tense) are all available on Amazon or via special order at brick and mortar book stores. Earth As It Is can also be found at Barnes & Noble online and other online outlets.

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How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work?
You can check out my website – janmaher.com – and sign up for my newsletter, follow my Facebook page, or follow my Amazon page. I have a Twitter handle but I haven’t yet fully entered the Tweeting world, so it’s not the best way to follow me; the same goes for Pinterest.

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Gemma Lambart

I have been looking forward to interviewing Gemma Lambart and reviewing her story “Alice’s Promise” since I began the A Contract of Words blog series.

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It is an exciting story that kept me on the edge of my seat. If you have children, especially babies, “Alice’s Promise” will remind you of your biggest fears. Alice is a wonderful and eager new mom to twins. Lucy is a psychotic childhood friend.

I had intended to read the stories in order, but I was flipping through and the title caught my eye. I started reading, thinking just a paragraph wouldn’t hurt, but I couldn’t stop. I was completely immersed in this universe and fell in love with the characters. I ended up reading her story first, no longer caring that I was reading out of order. I only wanted to know what was going to happen next.

Lambart did an incredible job with her story. It’s no wonder she made it into A Contract of Words.

On to our interview!

What is your story about?

“When I’m grown if I have two babies I’ll give you one and then we’ll be mummies together.”
“What if I have two babies first?”
“Then I’ll have one of yours silly. If you don’t give me one I won’t be your friend anymore.”
“Pinkie promise?”
“Pinkie promise.”

As Alice prepares for the arrival of her twin boys, Lucy, a former school friend makes contact via social media. Alice senses this isn’t a happy reunion and before long she discovers Lucy wants what she believes she is owed.

Are your characters based off anyone you know?

Not that I am aware of, though a number of people that know me well have said they hear me when Alice and Robert argue. I have no idea what they mean by that, I never argue…

What inspired you to write this story?

The anthology. I bailed on AHOW so told myself ACOW would be my first submission. I knew the story had to be about a contract and a childhood pinkie promise was the first thing that came to mind. Then it was the case of deciding what two young girls would pink promise over.

Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous?

Even though it was written for the anthology, there was a few months where I shoved it to the back of my mind and decided not to submit. Then one evening as the deadline loomed over me I reread it, decided I hated it and submitted, in the hope I’d never have to see it again. My theory was that something had to be my first submission. We’re on better terms now.

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What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words?

I was home, husband at work, the boys in bed and binge watching one of my shows when I saw a Facebook notification. I was still fairly new to the group, so didn’t know anyone that would tag me and I knew announcements were going out so there was a second where I held my breath before clicking. Even when it was there in front of me I had to read it a few times before it sunk in. I must have been loud as my two boys appeared rubbing their eyes and my six year old asked “Why are you being a girl mummy?”.

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it.

While I listen to music when writing I didn’t have a particular song that I connected with the story.

What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit and write? How long did it take you to write this story?

I planned the story in my mind and then just set about writing it. In total it took roughly three months on and off to write. It went through a number of changes and rewrites.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the title before or after you write a story?

Alice’s Promise was actually the fifth title, the original title was Playground Promise. I settled on Alice’s Promise as Alice was the girl who said she’d give one of her babies to her friend. It was as I reread the hospital scene and Alice’s memory that made me decide.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words is your favorite and why?

That’s really hard. I liked all of the stories but I do have a soft spot for those that made me laugh. “No Way”, “The Case of the Missing Cookies” and “Technical Jargon” are probably my top three for the laugh factor.

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why?

Mr. Sandman, but purely because I grew up listening to it and it’s pretty much the tune I use to make up songs to get my sons to do anything, sleep, potty training, yeah you get the picture.

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it?

Not yet, Alice’s Promise is my first published piece but I am working on a novel and a few ghostly short stories.

How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work?

You can find me at https://www.facebook.com/gemmalambart/ , https://twitter.com/GemmaLambart and https://www.gemmalambart.com/

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Kari Holloway

You don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy Kari Holloway’s “Catch Up” featured in A Contract of Words. It’s a sweet story about a boy who wants to be a professional baseball player, and envisions his future. The one and only Joe DiMaggio is a little boy, dreaming of his future.

This story is a cute idea of what the baseball star’s childhood may have been like. Every star starts off as a little boy or girl with hopes and dreams. Holloway did a great job spinning fact with fiction.

I’m not a baseball fan, but I enjoyed this story very much. The writing was beautiful, the description was vivid, and the story was great. Kari Holloway is an amazing writer. If you haven’t read any of her work yet, her A Contract of Words story will be a great place to start.

What is your story about?
The summer of 1941 and the baseball game that had everyone on the edge of their seats.

Are your characters based off anyone you know?
Not anyone I know personally. Joe DiMaggio’s kind of a big name in not only the Yankee’s clubhouse but baseball and sports in general.

What inspired you to write this story?
Garth Brooks did a cover of Ms Robinson. It’s like an earwig. It rooted around and got stuck until I wrote it.

Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous?
Actually, I claimed I was going to pass… then the song wormed its way into my heart.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words?
I finally didn’t have to listen to my oldest do the “I’m in it and you’re not,” dance. She earned the final spot in the book and had known for weeks, taunting me with it.

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it.
Yep. Garth Brook’s version of Ms. Robinson. It started this, it was going to be there until the very end.

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What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit and write? How long did it take you to write this story?
I had to research a lot about the domestic and international culture that was going on at the time. It took longer to research that and Joe DiMaggio than it took to write the story.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the title before or after you write a story?
It’s a play on words.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words is your favorite and why?
I haven’t finished reading it yet. Actually, I haven’t finished AHOW either. My to be read pile is amassing.

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why?
I haven’t listened to it. Music isn’t one of those things I seek out unless I’m in the car.

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it?
I have a ton of other things published. The short version, check out www.kariholloway.com

How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work?
Check out my website: www.kariholloway.com

 

 

Laura Ings Self

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Continuing the A Contract of Words reviews and interviews today is Laura Ings Self, author of “Who Dares Wins”. She is a sweet woman and an awesome writer. I was actually lucky enough to beta read this story, which honestly didn’t need it, and was floored by the creativity. I knew she would make it into the anthology because this story is original, well thought out, and so exciting.

“Who Dares Wins” is essentially about this game where a person is watched live, twenty-four seven, and is dared to do things that could be embarrassing or morally wrong. The story follows a brother and sister who watch the game under the brother’s account. The brother finds it exciting while the sister finds it horrible. The woman playing the game is ruining her personal life for a chance to win five million pounds. Every character included in this story has a backstory, making it even more realistic.

This really is an exciting read. If you haven’t read it yet, you should plan to. I’m really glad I read this story, and even happier that it is included in this anthology.

Now onto our interview.

What is your story about?

Its about how desperation can make you reckless.

Nina is desperate to change her life, prove her ex-husband wrong, and get her kids back. Miles is desperate to stay off drugs and be part of something meaningful. His sister, Alex, is desperate to help him pull himself out of the hole he has fallen into.

When all three lives become entangled in an extreme new reality gameshow, Who Dares Wins, they all start to realise you should be careful what you wish for.

Are your characters based off anyone you know?

Not in their entirety. But aspects of them are familiar. I very much believe in writing what you know, but I do try to blend truth with fiction as much as possible.

What inspired you to write this story?

I had the idea for the TV show first – the concept of a show that would force someone to do things that were outrageous and morally questionable. I had been watching a lot of Black Mirrorand that definitely was a big inspiration – the idea that this could happen, that its not a million miles away from where television is now and that we are, by our nature, voyeuristic and take delight in schadenfreude.

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Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous?

After successfully submitting my story, Hometo A Haunting of Words, I knew I wanted to give this anthology a try too. I had a lot going on in my personal life at the time so I didnt put too much pressure on myself, but when inspiration hit I knew I had to go for it.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words?

I was thrilled. Ive only been published once before so this second acceptance proved it isnt just a fluke and I can keep working towards my larger goal of publishing at least one novel.

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it.

I did not.

What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit and write? How long did it take you to write this story?

I dont tend to outline too much for short stories, just a few notes or abstract ideas. I sat and wrote the first draft while I was on holiday on a narrowboat, watching the world over the top of my laptop as we slowly cruised down the canals of Shropshire and Wales. It took me a few hours to get the first draft down and then I went back over it the next day to look for obvious errors or improvements I could make before setting it aside for a few weeks, checking it again, getting a couple of people to beta read it and finally polishing.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the title before or after you write a story?

I find titles really hard a lot of the time. This one ended up being the name of the TV show, which felt like a cop out, but I just couldnt think of anything else that covered the main themes and narrative so well.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words is your favorite and why?

My favourite story has to be Auntie Leelaby Samantha Hamilton. I think its beautifully written and the characters are engaging and believable. I really enjoyed the setting and was totally transported to the Southern world that I am completely unfamiliar with. I loved the twists and turns in the narrative and found the narrator thoroughly likeable.  

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why?

Perfect Day, by Lou Reed. Its just the perfect balance of peaceful contentment and sombre fatalism. Ive loved it since I first heard it on the Trainspottingsoundtrack twenty-odd years ago.

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it?

As I mentioned before, my first short story, Homecan be found in Scout Medias third anthology A Haunting of Words alongside many other brilliant stories (including one by the author of this blog! Love your work!) Its about a woman who has lost the love of her life through a tragic accident and cant quite bring herself to let go.

Aw. Like I said, you’re super sweet. 

How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work?

You can find my author page on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/lingsself/

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Laurie Gardiner

“Don’t Forget Me” is another story by Laurie Gardiner that will bring tears. It’s beautifully told story about the love a man has for a woman near death. This is a perfect love story if I ever read one. They aren’t the loving, sweet couple you would normally read about. She’s bossy and in control (from a lifetime of being the boss) but she’s confident and headstrong. She’s the perfect businesswoman. Now, as death approaches, Kate asks Anthony for one thing: to kill her if she forgets him.

This is one of my top five stories in this anthology. Laurie Gardiner never fails to amaze me with her work. This story is no exception. Sweet, sad, and a true love story. I connected with every character in this story. Gardiner is a remarkable writer.

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What is your story about? “Don’t Forget Me” is a tragic love story.
“If I forget who you are, I want you to kill me.”
When Anthony takes on the role of personal assistant to an ill-tempered business tycoon, the last thing he expects is to fall in love with his boss. Kate Templeton is obstinate, demanding, and twice his age. She is also dying. Anthony is about to learn that the hardest promises to keep are the ones that matter most.

Are your characters based off anyone you know? I guess most of my characters are loosely based on different people I know, but even if they start out that way, they always take on a life of their own during the writing process.

What inspired you to write this story? One evening I was watching music videos on You Tube and came across the song “Don’t Forget Me” by Harry Nilsson. The lyrics spoke to me and the story flowed from that. Also, my work as a personal support worker specializing in dementia plays a big role in most of my written works.

Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous? I planned on submitting from the moment the anthology was announced. The biggest challenge was coming up with a contract idea that I felt was original.

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words? I was ecstatic, of course!

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it. I chose the song “Don’t forget me” by Harry Nilsson for the reasons stated above.

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What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit and write? How long did it take you to write this story? I outline novels, but for short stories I simply start with an idea or a character and let the story unfold organically. My writing process tends to be slow and steady, so it took me a few weeks to write the first draft.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the title before or after you write a story? Usually, I choose my title after a story is complete. This time, the title was easy since the story is based on the song by the same name.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words is your favorite and why? I enjoyed all the stories and had a few favourites. If I have to choose just one, I would say S Lyle Lunt’s “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” because of its sweetness and how it pulled at my emotions.

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why? Deep Purple-“Smoke on the Water” because 70s rock. Need I say more?

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it? My short stories “Retribution” and “Thief” published respectively in A Journey of Words and A Haunting of Words can be purchased along with A Contract of Words at Amazon and through the Scout Media site: http://www.scoutmediabooksmusic.com/of-words-series/ My novel, Tranquility, is available through Amazon: amazon.com/author/lauriegardiner

How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work? You can find me at my website: https://lauriegardiner.me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/www.lauriegardiner.me/ and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/LaurieGardiner1

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S. Lyle Lunt

S. Lyle Lunt had me in tears with her story “A Guy Walks into a Bar”. At first, I was wondering why this man was walking around hiring people to pretend to be customers in his bar. I assumed he didn’t get a lot of customers and this was his way of drawing a crowd. Make the room look full and people will want to know what’s so special about the place. Enter plot twist.

This story was one of my favorites. It was very original and well thought out. She did a brilliant job.

I am so glad Brian accepted this story in A Contract of Words. I can’t wait to see what else the author comes up with in the future.

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What is your story about?

Mike hires drunks to play drunks in his bar, all for the benefit of a mysterious patron named Charlie.

Are your characters based off anyone you know?

The characters are composites based on a number of people I’ve known. When I was in college (a long time ago)  I, along with a group of friends, would go to happy hour at a local bar where locals and college kids mixed surprisingly well. The sarcastic drunk Mackie/Buster is based on one of the  local bar patrons. I once had an argument with him about the pronunciation of a word, and to solve the argument he went upstairs, where he rented a room, to retrieve a dictionary. When the guy stopped coming to the bar because of illness, I missed him.

What inspired you to write this story?

My best friend in college was a guy named Jim, and boy, did he love his bars. He was not only fond of pitchers of cheap beer, but he was a gregarious sports lover who could talk to anyone about anything. I remember him telling me once that wherever life took him, he’d always have a bar. I guess I had Jim in mind, at least a little, when I thought of this story.

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Did you plan to submit to A Contract of Words or was it spontaneous?

I knew that I wanted to submit to the next Of Words anthology. When the contract theme was announced, I was briefly deflated.  A contract? How dull! But then I realized my bar story idea would fit the theme. I’d had the idea for awhile and thought of it as a novel, but really, it works better as a short story. So I wrote it, working a contract into it, and sent it off. (And I was wrong about contract-themed stories being boring; something about that seemingly mundane theme seems to have inspired some remarkable creativity in the anthology’s writers.)

What was your reaction when you found out you were accepted into A Contract of Words?

I was so happy! It was the first thing I saw when I logged onto the computer that day, and I’m sure I was grinning like a crazy lady. I called my husband at work and told him, “I’m in!” (His response: “In what?”)

Scout Media sends a companion CD with each anthology. Did you choose a song to go with your story? If you did, tell us why you chose it.

I chose the Glen Hansard song,  “When Your Mind’s Made Up”.  I’d had this “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” story in my head for a few years, but had kind of forgotten about it for a bit. Then when listening to the song one day, really focusing on the lyrics, it seemed such a perfect fit for my characters Mike and Charlie, and it started me thinking about writing the story again.

What is your writing process like? Did you use an outline for this or just sit and write? How long did it take you to write this story?  

When I write, usually I have a mental outline from sleepless nights of  lying in bed  obsessively planning. I admire people who can outline on paper; that’s never worked for me. When the ideas won’t leave me alone, I sit down at the computer, stare at the blank screen, and start writing. Often the story veers in an entirely different direction from what I intended. I wrote this story in one sitting, which I’m guessing took two or three hours.  I first wrote it in present tense, which I’m fond of, but knowing that plenty of readers prefer past tense, rewrote it a few days later changing from present to past.

How did you choose your story title? Do you choose the title before or after you write a story?

Titles are hard! Usually I come up with a title after, but in this case, “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” was an easy one, and when I started writing those were the words at the top of the page. It seemed perfect because it’s literally got guys walking into a bar, and there are a couple of a-guy-walks-into-a-bar jokes in it.

Which of the stories in A Contract of Words is your favorite and why?

Oh, I don’t think I can pick just one. I especially enjoyed the ones that made me laugh–“No Way” by F.A. Fisher, “The Case of the Missing Cookies” by Larry Herscovitch, “Technical Jargon” by Sheena Robin Harris, “Auntie Leela” by Samantha Hamilton, “For Science!” by William Thatch. Others moved me (Laurie Gardner’s “Don’t Forget Me”), impressed me with the plot (“Who Dares Win” by Laura Ings Self), and chilled me to the core (“Bobby–You’d Never Guess” by Gabriella Balcom). They’re all so good; I honestly can’t choose.

Which of the songs from the companion CD is your favorite and why?
I like “Two Gunslingers”, the inspiration for Brian Paone’s entertaining story of the same name, because I like the message as well as the sound.  And I’d never heard “Clean Up Woman” (from Leah McNaughton Lederman’s fascinating “The Women No One Sees”) before, but like it a lot. I’ve listened to Sarah Vaughan’s “Dancing in the Dark” (inspiration for Jan Maher’s excellent story of the same name) a few times, too, because it’s beautiful.

Do you have any other work published? Where can we find it?
I was published in the Owen Wister Review in the 1980s, but, although I’ve never stopped writing, this is the first thing I’ve submitted since those days. I’m polishing a coming-of-age novel set in the early 1970s titled A River, a Canoe, Glug Glug, and Lindy Lou, which I hope to release in 2018.

How do we connect with you and find more about upcoming work?
You can visit me at my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SLyleLunt/

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